JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO, Texas —
The 502nd Logistics Readiness Squadron’s slogan, “Supporting Those Who Serve,” aptly tells the story of a unit that numbers more than 800 active-duty members and civilian employees who serve all of Joint Base San Antonio, including 266 mission partners.
Since late August, in addition to attending to its everyday duties transporting personnel and equipment, the 502nd LRS has provided crucial support of another kind: assisting the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other organizations in multiple hurricane relief operations.
“The performance of the 502nd LRS, along with our reserve partners from the 433rd Airlift Wing, has been nothing short of superior,” said Lt. Col. Ernest Cage, 502nd LRS commander. “Our Airmen have worked day and night to provide food, water and other life-saving necessities to those who were affected by hurricanes Harvey, Irma and now Maria.”
The squadron – like the other JBSA units that contributed to hurricane relief efforts – was called into action early, preparing the initial cargo for the medical team that went to support relief operations in Houston, which was devastated by flooding triggered by rainfall from Harvey.
Since then, statistics tell the story of the 502nd LRS’ significant contribution to relief operations for all three superstorms that impacted millions of people in states and island nations contiguous to the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean.
To support Hurricane Harvey relief efforts, the squadron was involved in 15 missions, utilizing C-5, C-17 and C-130 aircraft for inbound and outbound shipments of 409 tons of cargo – food, water and medical supplies – and 13 tons of baggage, which included the personal belongings and gear of responding deployers. The squadron also facilitated the transport of 345 passengers and 44 vehicles.
For Hurricane Irma relief, the 502nd LRS was responsible for 91.4 tons of cargo and 29 passengers, which included 89.9 tons of water for FEMA support and a JBSA surgical team that comprised six passengers.
The squadron has also shipped 1,150 tons of food and water to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands of St. Thomas and St. Croix in support of Hurricane Maria relief.
Flexibility has defined the squadron during this period, Cage said.
“We’ve been able to maintain our daily operations while still fulfilling the monstrous task of receiving, palletizing, netting and loading thousands of tons of cargo,” he said. “Our initial process constrained us to offload only one truck per hour, but LRS members devised a plan to increase efficiency and we now have the capability to offload, palletize, net and load 720,000 pounds of cargo per day.”
More than half of the squadron’s members were engaged around the clock, Cage said.
“It’s a total team effort between our military members and our civilians,” he said. “There was never any hesitation on their part.”
The squadron did not overlook its commitment to its families during Hurricane Harvey.
“Military members and civilians with family in Houston were allowed to take leave and take care of their families,” Cage said. “That’s a top priority for the Air Force.”
Readiness is the cornerstone of the 502nd LRS, Cage said, and it again paid off in hurricane relief efforts.
“We remain postured for operations like this because we are constantly supporting a revolving door of real-world events throughout the year for many of our 266 mission partners,” he said. “We have a robust contingency response program with Airmen who are trained to be key players in these types of situations.”
Cage said he is proud of his team’s response.
“With upcoming deployments, the day-to-day mission and with less than three hours’ notice, our folks have stepped up to the challenge of packaging and delivering much-needed provisions for the victims of three devastating hurricanes,” he said.